Following the arrest of two men from Marina for allegedly raping a 21-year-old Carmel woman with the help of a so-called "rape drug," the executive director of the Monterey Rape Crisis Center has issued a warning that the use of such substances locally is not unusual.
Clare Mounteer says that around 25 Monterey Peninsula women have been victimized this year after being slipped a dose of the drugs, strong sedatives that induce a blackout. The drugs are known as "roofies" (short for Rohypnol) or GHB (Gamma Hydroxybutyrate).
Mounteer says many victims are reluctant to report incidents involving rape drugs to police because they''re really not sure what happened.
In the Peninsula communities that the center covers, 47 rapes were reported to police in 2000. In the same period, the Crisis Center provided services to 303 new rape survivors.
Randy Taylor of the Monterey Police Department says that three of the 13 rapes reported in the city last year were believed to involved a rape drug.
Mounteer says the effect of such surreptitiously administered drugs is that a victim who might have had one drink feels like he or she had five, but can''t remember anything. Mounteer says there is no pattern to the rape-drug stories.
"There''s no typical scenario," she says.
Police suspect that the woman allegedly raped on Dec. 13 was rendered helpless with a rape drug after she met the two men at a downtown Monterey nightclub. Toxicology reports are not expected for a week or two, according to Monterey Police Investigations Sgt. Frank Sollecito.
He says the idea that she was drugged is based on the opinions of experts after interviewing the victim and observing her going in and out of consciousness for an entire day. "She was in the deep throes of the drug at that point," Sollecito says.
Phantom Oil Spill Killing Birds
Hundreds of oil-drenched seabirds have been found between Monterey and Point Reyes, north of San Francisco, since late November, and state wildlife officials are clueless to the cause. Despite a coordinated investigation between the state Fish & Game department, the U.S. Coast Guard and the Oiled Wildlife Care Network, there is no idea where the oil is coming from.
"We can''t even find the slick," says Dana Michaels, a public affairs officer for Fish & Game''s Office of Spill Prevention and Response.
As of Dec. 19, 300 living oiled seabirds have been brought to the state Wildlife Health Center in Cordelia. They were first discovered near Point Reyes, but have been recently discovered further south. Last week many were found in Monterey Bay. Of the 300 found so far, 108 are being degreased, 142 have died and 50 were released. Another 342 have arrived dead.
Most of the birds are common murres, which look like a small penguin. Grebes, loons and surf scoters have also been found.
Birds rely on their feathers for many things, including warmth. The oil reduces the insulating quality of the feathers by wadding them up. It''s hard to get out.
"It''s kind of like getting gum in your hair," Michaels says.
The mystery is the source and type of the oil. Michaels says the state''s petroleum laboratory near Sacramento has been able to rule out oil that naturally seeps from the ocean floor. Experts have also eliminated Alaskan North Slope crude, which is the majority of the oil being shipped to San Francisco Bay for refining. Also crossed off the suspect list is leaking oil from the Puerto Rican, a ship that sunk off Golden Gate in 1984.
One possibility is that it''s bunker oil, a type of ship fuel.
After three weeks of scooping up damaged birds, the oil should have collected debris and deteriorated but Michaels says recent inductees have been covered with fresh oil. The state has sea and airborne searchers, as well as people patrolling the beach on foot for damaged birds.
"Our objective is to catch the culprit," Michaels says. "It''s pretty bad."
Elkhorn Slough Preserve Grows
Chalk up another 384 acres for the Elkhorn Slough Foundation in its quest to conserve and restore the giant estuary and it''s watershed.
The Foundation recently acquired 134 acres of land in the upper slough with a $420,000 grant from the California State Coastal Conservancy. At press time, the Foundation was also working to buy the title of a second property, a 250-acre parcel, said Foundation Director Mark Silberstein.
Both properties are located in the upper slough, and protect its main drainage, Silberstein says.
"The 134 acre property protects some key natural resources, ag land, rare maritime chaparral, some riparian habitat and beautiful local woodlands," Silberstein says. "It really augments and expands on the protection that we started with the acquisition of old Triple M Ranch."
--Andrew Scutro, Jessica Lyons